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Two of my favorite people had devastating news this week. They live on opposite sides of Sydney, and a week ago were connected only by their association with me. Now, they have a health diagnosis in common. One is in Intensive Care, and the other is going into hospital tomorrow. If they met, I know they would adore each other. Cheeky, irreverent and making me laugh to the point of tears. I have never found a place that truly feels like home. Could it be that it is contained in people, because these two feel like home. No social niceties and pretense; you come as you are and are loved for it. 

I spent yesterday with my soul sister. She is being admitted to hospital tomorrow. We talked for fourteen hours without pause. We talked about many things, none connected. We showed each other silly pictures on our phones, my friend proudly displaying the various poses of her beloved dog. We determined that she is going to set up a blog for this pooch, to gift the world with its wisdom. We laughed at nonsense, and reflected on times gone by as we looked through old albums. Man, the times we have had! She is afraid, and I would give anything to trade places with her. I wish it was me, rather than her and my other dear friend. I would sell all my possessions if it meant they didn’t have to go through this. 

We had cups of tea and drinks of water, food and Stevie Nicks playing throughout our day, afternoon and night. I wanted my friend to stay over, and she dearly wanted to stay as well. She couldn’t, as she needed her medications, which were at her place. We prolonged the inevitable for as long as we could. “What kind of tree is that?” she asked as she looked up in my front yard. “Canadian maple, I think,” I replied. She laughed so hard, when she realized that it wasn’t, not even close. “Well, whatever it is, it’s got buds, and will be in bloom when you come next,” I smiled. We talked some more at her car, and I held her longer than normal, tearing up. “I love you so very much,” I whispered. She told me that she loved me too. 

Our Saturday was raw, intimate and real. I looked at this spectacular human in awe and wonder. She has gifted me so much. I wish my other friend could have been with us. In the morning, she will be in hospital, undergoing tests. I looked at her tiny feet and laughed, recalling when I gifted her red sequinned ruby slippers. I had to get a child’s size for her. I wish she could click those heels three times and be anywhere other than hospital. You are both my home, and I love you. You have both been through so much; this is yet another battle, of which you shall handle with your usual pizzazz. I will be there, cheering you on. If you falter in your step, I will lend you strength; all those that love you shall. You can do this. Life has only just begun.

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Hello Kitty Café, Friends and Sydney


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Sydney in Autumn is a sight to behold. We walked around to drama, dodging trucks and construction of the light installations for Vivid, which starts this weekend. There were buskers and tour groups taking in the history of The Rocks. My daughter has a ritual before her class. I give her money and she buys a strawberry donut from a takeaway shop at Circular Quay. The elderly Vietnamese man sees her approach, and has the donut in the bag before she asks. My daughter says they are the best donuts in the world. We weave our way through wedding parties and photographers, my daughter entranced by the gowns, but grossed out by the romance and smooching. I call our day in the city my caffeine day. When you have such extraordinary coffee and barista’s at your disposal, why wouldn’t you indulge? To redeem myself, I order the best salad in Sydney. Spoilt for choice, it is hard to settle on one, and they are a triumph of assembly. The sort that you wouldn’t bother making yourself at home, unless you had a spare hour or so.

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Scenes such as the one above take my mind off my physical pain. Thank heavens my daughter’s balance is better than mine! On this particular day, I decided to travel over the Harbour Bridge on the train, to see friends. I insisted we try the quirky Hello Kitty Café at Chatswood.

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My friend and I are under the care of an endocrinologist. Both of us are sugar-impaired, shall we say, and we try to behave. This was something of our last hurrah on that front, which is just as well.

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Yes, I drank/ate the Freak Milkshake above, and was suitably buzzing and silly afterward! To my delight, they had a tofu burger on the menu.

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It was a sweet little café, and we enjoyed our outing. It has taken me two days to get over our big day out, but you gotta live, right? I had seen this place had opened over a year ago, and determined to go one day and check it out. It niggles at you, doesn’t it? The events you miss and promise to get to the next year, the things you want to do and people you want to see. Sometimes you just have to do it. We are looking forward to the next adventure! Sydney is brimming with them!

Beaches and Visiting the Past


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We met up with some families this week at Bondi Beach. It’s a lovely trip by bus from the city, and you get to meet some real characters. On our last trip, we came across a regal ninety year old woman, dressed to the nines. My daughter still talks about her, and she has provided a point of reference for the possibilities offered in older age. I had put 50+ sunscreen on my daughter, and myself, though I neglected my neck, to my peril. It was cool and overcast when we arrived, a dangerously deceptive combination. It didn’t take long for the sun to burst forth, in all it’s sizzling glory. There was something special about being at Bondi Beach, particularly when you don’t have the hassle of obtaining parking. A bus is the way to go! The kids had great fun, alternating between the beach and pool.

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The next morning, we got up and did it all again, this time going to Balmoral Beach. On the way, we had cupcakes and ice cream at The Classic Cupcake Co. in Double Bay. Oh my goodness! Made from natural ingredients, they were a taste of heaven. I had the Midnight Mint Cupcake.

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As we made our way to the beach, we witnessed a near-collision in Double Bay. An inch more and the cars would have hit. The woman who had nearly caused the accident decided to come into our lane in her ostentatious car. My friend beeped at her to warn her that we were too close behind, and the other driver made some very rude gestures! She was perfectly coiffed, aged in her fifties and old enough to know better. Money can’t buy class! The kids ran to the water, whilst we ordered chips and potato scallops. I smiled as seagulls gathered around. I fancy myself as a Bird Woman, whom understands their secret language. “I will give you a chip or two,” I smiled. “Just let me open the box.” Out of nowhere, a seagull swooped and its claws scraped the side of my face. Another one followed suit, and it pecked my face as it searched for a chip. “Little buggers!” I cried! “P*%$ off!” They were vicious; intent on stealing chips, and there were so many gathered that we were forced to move off the beach. I had never seen anything like it! Normally, birds love me! They followed us to a table, and fortunately, a Pomeranian named Romeo gallantly chased them away. The brave little dog received lots of pats from the kids!

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We caught a train to an inner-city stop, and as we waited for my daughter’s dad to drive us home, I decided to show my little girl where we once lived. It was a semi-detached house in a grand old street, shaded by towering trees. I got a real kick out of pointing out where our Aboriginal neighbour lived, as well as two elderly sisters, now departed from this world. I stopped at the gate to our former abode, picturing myself at 20. I was writing and had started my business here, creating art for shops in Newtown and the city. I had also started my journey of infertility here, having been given a strong injection which was promised to slow the progression of endometriosis (which they hadn’t determined I had). Instead of making me feel better, it caused side-effects so violent that I was bed-ridden for a good year. It was here I feared I would never have my daughter, and it was here I wished with all my heart that I would.

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As I glanced up at canopy of trees, I was appalled that I had ceased to appreciate them properly at the time. They don’t preserve streets and grand architecture as they used to; like they did on this particular street. My daughter was taken with the street art, and the park at the end of the street. As I watched her roll down a hill and perform cartwheels, my throat constricted with emotion. The amount of times I sat on that very hill in that little park… Dreaming of having a child, and of what life might be.

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I sat next to her, and told her of the life I lived long before she arrived. I talked of my hopes and dreams, and also of my fears. I hadn’t been back to the street for many years. I can still hear the mail being dropped through the slot in our door. I can still feel the warmth from the old gas oven in the kitchen I painted turquoise. I can see me. I haven’t changed that much, except that I am weathered. We all get weathered along the way, to varying degrees. Distressed and shabbily chic. I am glad I thought to take her back. I hope that the girl on the hill could feel our visitation through time and space. I hope she could sense that she was going to be okay. I hope she could sense the little girl doing cartwheels nearby. I am glad I got too see the canopy of trees, as if for the first time.

 

 

 

 

Breathing


I woke up last week, battling to breathe. I have had struggles with my lungs in the past, to the point where I have suffered respiratory arrest. Of course, this didn’t stop me smoking unfiltered Turkish cigarettes as a youngster, a fact that now makes me cringe. The damage that my spine has suffered has compromised my breathing, so if I catch a virus, I feel it ferociously. A doctor who administers Botox  on the side was able to see me, his secretary pulling faces as he repeated orders that she had already seen to. He had forgotten that she can pre-empt his every move. He is a raconteur, a larger-than-life medico. He was straight onto what needed to be done to help me breathe.

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I started on my steroids and various medications, unable to  lift my head from the pillow. My little girl put the washing out, fed me and schooled herself, using online resources. I was drenched in sweat from my fever, and drifted in and out of disjointed, fitful sleeps. A dear friend who is undergoing chemotherapy brought around soup and rolls. “I think it was Auntie Di,” my little girl said as she brought in my lunch. “She had a scarf over her face.” I was so glad she did! The next day, another friend left a bag at the back door. This lady is a single mum, and not well herself. To have friends call around when they are going through tough times themselves…A little girl called Blossie popped in with her mum to visit, and word of my pneumonia even hit the street. We found a little doll and card lovingly placed in our letterbox, overflowing with a local character’s best wishes. People offered to help in any way they could. It meant so much. To know people cared, and we weren’t alone. I am overjoyed that my daughter is able to see such striking examples of kindness. I could have got worse, and needed to be in hospital, and the assurance that friends were nearby helped alleviate a great deal of worry.

 A container of soup is much more than it’s ingredients. It’s the energy of love, comfort and support. It says that you care, and want to nourish your loved one. Thankyou to my beautiful friends for being there. It’s back to the real world this week, and though I still feel weak, I am bolstered by the kindness shown. At this stage, my doctors won’t operate to provide pain relief to my spine, as it simply wouldn’t help. It is only when mechanically I need to be rebuilt so I can breathe easier that they will go in. I just need to get through winter, and then I will be okay for another year. I reckon I can do it! I have been reminded that I am not doing it alone.

24 Hours


Yesterday I woke up feeling ill. My specialist has put me on a new medication, and I know I have to give myself time to adjust. It was bitterly cold and the sky was grey. Someone had smeared the sky with charcoal. My stomach was distended as the endometriosis grew, fed by this new drug, which I need. “Look at the big picture, Raphie,” I urged. Always look at the big picture. I felt the urge to scream from the pain, and the desire to clean and discard. I did both. Why the hell do we keep the things we do? Old numbers on scraps of paper, old ways of being. I put an angel who had lost her wings into the pile of donations. I had stored my maternity clothes in a special drawer. I looked at them, and wondered why I had held on so long. My subconscious must surely have been seared every time I went past that drawer, even if I was unaware. As I washed up, I exhaled heavily. A burden had been lifted. I then heard the ‘snap’ of my spine as I was dragged along the ground after my fall. It was as distinct as though it were happening then and there. “Oh my God!” I cried, bursting into tears. I sat with the memory a while. I assured myself that it was natural to have events, sounds, smells and more clamour to the forefront on the anniversary. On White Ribbon Night.

After school pickup, a friend popped in. She hugged me, and said how sorry she was that today was “the day.” It meant the world to have it acknowledged. This lady knows all about “those days.” The pain ramped up, and I was in a holding pattern of agony, fevers and chills. There was to be a meeting of gentle souls around the corner that evening, and I determined that I would go. I didn’t want to be home with my memories. The hostess is a vegan, and she had made this delicious main meal.

Tofu and nuts.
Tofu and nuts.

We laughed and talked about foster kids, homelessness, travelling, art and beauty. We sipped coconut water and made sure room was saved for this.
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I didn’t stay late, and I gave my gorgeous friend a tight hug and thanked her. My mind had been summoned to wondrous places, leaving that dark building on a winter’s night. The pain was softened by the graciousness of a nourishing meal and a room full of good people. I went home and hugged my little girl, smoothing her tendrils of honeyed hair. “May your world be markedly different, my darling.”